Though Kenny Barron rarely visits Philadelphia these days, he carries a bit of 28th and Montgomery with him every time he sits down at the piano.
Growing up in North Philly, Barron came of age in the early '60s, cutting his teeth in The Showboat and Pep's, legendary local clubs of that bygone era. Modeling himself on the lyrical styles of Tommy Flanagan and Hank Jones, Barron soon developed his own distinct, uber-delicate twinkling of the keys.
This Saturday, Barron returns home for a one-night-only performance at the Annenberg Center. And the Philly kid has certainly made good during the last half-century, with nine Grammy nominations and more than 30 albums to his credit. "I guess I'm just still searching for my sound," says Barron, with a laugh. "Like Miles Davis says, 'It takes a long time to learn how to play like yourself.'"
Jazz aficionados would likely disagree with that statement. Barron's expressive touch and complex melodies have placed him among the most respected musicians of his generation.
This weekend, Barron will hit the stage with a host of original compositions, accompanied by Kiyoshi Kitagawa on bass and Jonathan Blake on drums. "Blake kind of kicks my butt, which is a good thing," says Barron. "He's just got this great energy. He throws me a lot of curves, and keeps me on my toes. He keeps me from playing what I planned to play."
If you go
The Kenny Barron Trio
Annenberg Center, Zellerbach Theater
3680 Walnut St.
Saturday, 8 p.m.